Monthly Archives: February 2007

And Now James Cameron Presents the Body of Jesus. No, Really.

Strangest movie rumour ever? How about that James Cameron thinks he’s found the body of Jesus and is going to present it at a press conference?

From the Time magazine Middle East blog:

…film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family… Cameron is holding a New York press conference on Monday at which he will reveal three coffins, supposedly those of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.

The thing is, James Cameron could have the real Jesus, and he’d still think he was the most important thing in the room. What’s the King of Kings to the King of the World?

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It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, 2006)

Sylvester Stallone’s new Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa, is an experiment in the power of sentiment. To what extent can our years of association with a character transform our experience of a movie? Can a major motion picture get by on nostalgia alone? The answer, in this case, is that yes, it can.

The original Rocky was a fairy-tale, but it was a gritty one, set in a run-down, semi-deserted Philadelphia. Like a lot of late-seventies proto-blockbusters, it paired the simple genre narrative that would define eighties blockbuster filmmaking with the realist edge of seventies New Hollywood; in doing so it got the best of both worlds. So while the story is pure fluff, the film was built on solid elements such as the performances of Stallone and his costars, and the character of its Philadelphia locations. After the founding film the series fell apart in small increments, with each instalment becoming more cartoonish, overwhelming the simple dignity of the title character. By Rocky IV, as Stallone faced off in a symbolic cold-war bout between America and Russia, the series was a joke.

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“We’ll Invade Your Countries, Kill Your Leaders, and Convert You to Christianity”

In my post on torture in 24 – which was really just a link to someone else who wrote something interesting on the topic – I touched on The 1/2 Hour News Hour, the conservative response to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Well, John Rogers’ blog has drawn my attention to a couple of clips from the show. First, Roger’s opinion (as a former stand-up and comedy writer):

It’s as if aliens tried to decipher humor from radiated cable television waves and then constructed a “comedy” show with a poor translation algorithm. It is un-joke. You could put it in a chamber with a knock-knock joke and use the resultant explosion to power a starship.

And now, in case you think that this is just because Rogers is some kind of leftie scrooge like myself, here are the clips Rogers highlighted so that you can judge for yourself.

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“Torture is a Dramatic Device”

A while back I wrote a couple of short pieces (such as this one) for the site arguing that Hollywood, for the most part, has showed a surprising reluctance to respond to the events of 9/11 by indulging in paranoid right-wing fantasies. While I stand by most of what I said then, I did forget the obvious counter-example: television’s 24.

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Kill the Cartoon Oscar

In the lead-up to the Oscars, there’s always a lot of discussion around what will win, the overwhelming majority of which centers on the “big five” awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). And whatever you think about the Oscars, there are usually some interesting features battling it out, even if they aren’t quite what you might think are actually the best films. (“Best Picture Made in America, By a Big Studio and Seeming Important Without Being Too Challenging” might be a better name for the night’s biggest award).

But how’s this for a strange little Oscar Contest? Best Animated Feature has three nominees (down from five because less than sixteen films were eligible): Cars, Happy Feet, and Monster House. I have already expressed my dissatisfaction with the okay-to-mediocre Cars and the surprisingly bad Happy Feet. I haven’t seen Monster House, and from most reports it’s actually pretty good. But it is a heavily motion-captured film (as, to a lesser extent, is Happy Feet), which means that however good it might be, its pretty dubious as an example of the best of the animated form.

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Look at the Size of that Thing!

Those who know me in real life (and does anyone else read this?) will know that really the only movie collectibles I indulge in are Star Wars Lego sets, which I’m afraid press my film nerd buttons too irresistibly to ignore.

Until now, though, I’ve ignored the really obscene items in the line: the magnificent Imperial Star Destroyer and the frankly ridiculous Death Star. Both of those were, at the time, the largest Lego sets ever released. Now, however, they have been knocked off the perch by the impending release of the Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon. And my resolve is being tested.

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Little Children (Todd Field, 2006)

Todd Field’s Little Children is an impressive film that jumps off from a potentially hazardous premise. A known sex offender, Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), moves into an upper-middle class community, and the local parents are scared and outraged. Flyers with the man’s photo are distributed, and some of the parents resort to harassment and vigilante behaviour. Contrasted against this is the unfolding soap opera of the bookish Sarah (Kate Winslet), who starts an affair with the hunky stay-at-home father Brad (Patrick Wilson). As the relationship unfolds, other forms of social dysfunction, less serious but more prevalent, are explored. Field contrasts reactions to the ultimate, unforgiveable transgressions (represented by the fear of what Ronnie might do to local children) with the more everyday neglect and manipulation of children by parents preoccupied with their own gratification. The children in the film are all too often props in their parents’ lives, used as excuses to socialise, alibis to cover illicit meetings, or as sources of information about their spouse’s actions.

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Ward Kimball, 1968

Michael Barrier has pointed out an interesting footnote to animation history posted on YouTube: a 1968 protest short by Ward Kimball. Kimball was a lead animator at Disney, one of the so-called “Nine Old Men” who formed the core of the studio’s staff in its mature period through to its seventies nadir. The most overtly comic of the Nine Old Men, he was lead animator for such characters as Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio and the crows in Dumbo, and directed Disney’s Oscar-winning experiment with stylised animation Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953).

In 1968, on his own time, he directed Escalation, an anti-war, anti-LBJ short that makes scatalogical reference to Pinocchio. It couldn’t be further from stereotypical Disney family values. A mild adult content warning applies.

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I Quit on You When You Cleared out of Detroit with Willie the Pimp!

By the miracle of YouTube, a clever remix of Darth Vader’s scenes in Star Wars with incongruous dialogue from James Earl Jones’ other films. Strange, overlong, but intermittently very funny. It doubles as a tribute to Jones and the range of roles to which he’s put that remarkable voice.

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